Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has said that as president he will meet the Dalai Lama, continuing a decades-old practice followed by American presidents with the exception of President Donald Trump, and press China to resume talks with Tibetans for “meaningful autonomy”.
The nominee also vowed to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in Tibet and “step up” support for Tibetans.
Biden accused Trump of maintaining a “deafening silence” on Chinese actions in Tibet and focussing instead on an “empty trade deal” and nurturing his “very good friendship” with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“As President, I’ll put values back at the center of American foreign policy,” Biden said in a statement Thursday. “I’ll meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama; appoint a new Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues.”
The nominee called out Trump for not meeting the Tibetan leader yet, saying “It’s disgraceful, though not surprising, that Trump is the first American president in three decades who has not met or spoken with His Holiness the Dalai Lama”.
The appointment of a special coordinator is mandated by the US Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 — “to promote substantive dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representative”. The position has been vacant since January 2017, when President Trump took office.
Biden went on to say: “I’ll work with our allies in pressing Beijing to return to direct dialogue with the representatives of the Tibetan people to achieve meaningful autonomy, respect for human rights, and the preservation of Tibet’s environment as well as its unique cultural, linguistic and religious traditions.”
He will also “step up” support for the Tibetan people, he said, by, among things, expanding Tibetan language services at Radio Free Asia and Voice of America to get information from the outside world into Tibet.
But the Trump administration has not been soft exactly on China over Tibet, as charged by Biden. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced visa restrictions in July on some Chinese officials because of Beijing’s restrictions on US diplomats, journalists and tourists from travelling to Tibet and for “human rights abuses” there.
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